Nyonya Cuisine


Nonya cuisine is one of my must-haves whenever I go back to Singapore! Have any of you heard of and/or tried Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine before? Read on to learn more about the origins of this cuisine, and also my Top 2 Favorite Dishes!

最近、シンガポールへ帰りました~ 皆様、プラナカンやニョニャ料理をご存知ですか?これは、シンガポール人の地元の料理ですよ!今回の話題は、プラナカンやニョニャ料理の解説をしたいと思います!そして、私のTop2に入る好きなニョニャ料理も紹介したいと思います!

About Peranakan and Nyonya

The word Peranakan translates roughly to ‘locally born and bred’, with the popular idea being that Chinese immigrants married local Malaysians; resulting in a unique culture with entirely new traditional beliefs, clothes and cuisine. The men are called “Baba” and women are referred to as “Nyonya,” respectful and endearing terms for men and women respectively in the Indonesian language. As the women were primarily responsible for providing meals for the family, Peranakan cuisine is also referred to as ‘Nyonya’.

In this way, Peranakan and Nyonya food is a unique blend of Chinese, Malay and other Southeast Asian cultures. It originates from Chinese immigrants, who in the 15th century moved to the regions that are now Malaysia and Singapore and Indonesia, blending influences and cooking traditions and creating an exhilarating combination of all things tangy, spicy, herbal and aromatic!


プラナカン(Peranakan)とはマレー語で「ここで生まれた」を意味し、英語では”Born here”と訳されます。19世紀末頃までに各国からマレーシアに移住してきた男性(中華系移民、インド系移民が多く古くはポルトガル人の子孫もいます)が、現地のマレー人女性と結婚し、生まれてきた混血の子孫を総称して「プラナカン」と呼びます。プラナカンの男の子をババ、女の子をニョニャと呼んでいます!プラナカン料理はよく女性が作っていますので、「ニョニャ料理」と呼ばれています!

A Taste of Nyonya Cuisine

Shall we try some Nyonya Cuisine together? Recently, my family and I went to PeraMakan, a Nonya restaurant in Singapore! The name of “PeraMakan” is a clever combination between “Peranakan” and “Makan” (which means “to eat” in Malay).




Dishes we ordered (from left to right); nonya ngoh hiang, Beef Rendang, Bendi Goreng Sambal, Belinjau Crackers, Assam Buah Keluak; paired with young coconuts and red wine


Next, for my Top 2 Favorite Nonya dishes!

さて、私のTop 2のニョニャ料理をご紹介致します!

1. Ayam Buah Keluak (アヤム・ブア・クルア)

Perhaps the quintessential Peranakan dish, the ayam buah keluak is unique for its use of the seeds of the kepayang (a tall tree native to the mangrove swamps of Malaysia and Indonesia). The seed itself is actually poisonous! If uncooked, it contains hydrogen cyanide so a tremendous deal of prep is required before it can be eaten: the seeds have to be boiled several times and then buried (usually in ash, banana leaves, and earth for more than a month so that the fermentation process makes the cyanide easy to be cleaned). The chicken and kepayang seeds are then simmered for hours in a paste of tamarind and rempah.

The result is a complex and piquant dish bursting with spice, savory umami flavors, and a tang of bitterness.

一番目は、ニョニャ料理を代表する一品Ayam Buah Keluak(アヤム・ブア・クルア)です!料理名の「Ayam」は鶏肉、「Buah」は混ぜる、「Keluak」はパンギの木(熱帯地方に生えるイイギリ科の高木)の実を表すマレー・インドネシア語です。



2.Otak-Otak (オタオタ)

Otak-otak means “brains” in Indonesian. Although it may look like a mixture of brains, it is actually a grilled fish cake made of ground fish meat mixed with tapioca starch and spices. Otak-otak is very popular across Southeast Asia, especially across Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. It is often served wrapped and grilled inside a banana, Pandan or coconut leaf.

The result is a spicy and fragrant fish cake with a firm mouthfeel similar to eating a Japanese Chikuwa or Satsuma-age!

二番目は、Otak-Otak(オタオタ)です!オタオタとは、マレー語で「脳」という意味です。見た目は「脳みそ」みたいですが、本当は脳の料理というわけではありませんよ。オタオタとは、魚のすり身を唐辛子や香辛料で味付けし、よくバナナかパンダンかココナッツの葉で包んで、炭火で焼いた一品です!食べてみると、ピリ辛の「薩摩ま揚げ」のような食感でビールによく合います~ ☆

By the way, red wine complements Nyonya food very well!

Personally, I enjoy young red wines like Zinfandels and blends with milder spicy and aromatic foods – when chilled it is especially soothing to the palate! Although it is often said to avoid tannic wines like cabernet blends, I find that the stronger tannins complement well with the natural bitterness present in Nyonya foods. 😀


私にちなんで名付けられた美味しいなジャミーの赤ワインが見つかりました! ;)


About Rachel

Rachel Leng is COO and Co-Founder of SeiRogai, Inc., a Tokyo-based business consultancy & media production company. Previously, she was Leader of Business Development on the Investment Management team at a Japanese private equity fund, as well as Policy Analyst at a top think tank in Seoul, South Korea.

As an East Asia specialist and former Miss Singapore titleholder, Rachel is passionate about the potential of media to educate and raise awareness about history, culture, art, business, and societal issues to enhance mutual understanding.

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